Of Budget Cuts & Sacred Cows

If the budget were in the hands of the public, rather than in the hands of the president and Congress, what would the man and woman on the street choose to cut?


According to a survey conducted by the PEW Research Center for the People & the Press (Feb. 2-7), the four most popular spending cuts, in descending order, are: global poverty assistance (45 percent of respondents would decrease spending); military defense (30 percent); unemployment assistance (28 percent); and environmental protection (26 percent). Since, from among these four, military defense is by far the largest part of the budget (nearly a quarter of it), lawmakers could make substantial cuts here and that the public supports. Fortunately, some freshmen House Republicans have shown a willingness to make defense cuts, including today, the F-35 Joint Strike Fighter, an expensive engine program that both the Bush and Obama administrations have tried to dismantle.

 Conversely, the American public also has its “sacred cows,” according to the PEW study, that is, items for which it would like to see spending increased, not frozen or cut. The top four of these are: education (62 percent favor increased spending); veterans’ benefits and services (51 percent); health care (41 percent); and Medicare (40 percent). Combating crime, at 39 percent, almost makes the list. Pollsters note, however, that public support for these sacred cows has decreased markedly over the last two years. That response could indicate a growing public awareness that spending—even on what it values most—must decrease.

For budgeters, the survey results cast a light on where the speed bumps lie in the road toward public acceptance. Health care—if more broadly construed to include the Veteran’s Administration, Medicare, Medicaid and CHIP—makes up an even larger portion of the federal budget than defense. Lawmakers, however, must convince the public that they can find fair and effective ways of reducing these costs, without curtailing the major benefits.


Note: This image is made for the 2011 budget; the budget now being discussed is for 2012.


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7 years 11 months ago
Really, a ''minor tax increase for the wealthy''?

Based on the economic curves for these three programs you will need continued tax increases to support the unsustainable growth of these programs. 
Bill Mazzella
7 years 11 months ago
What should be examined in health care is the outrageous money the health insurers and the pharmaceutical companies make. Certainly the drug companies need money for research. We can do that without the absurd disproportion that exists. There is something wrong when hospitals are run like businesses rather than caring institution as the first priority. If we streamlined these costs there would be sufficent funds for a great health care system. Even in health care the super rich dominate. This is the problem. 
7 years 11 months ago
Health insurance is a very low profits industry.  Some fell for the nonsense put out by those in favor of the health care legislation that there were huge saving from insurance industry waste.  Just not so.
Vince Killoran
7 years 11 months ago
Just last week Coventry Health Cafre reported that its profits were up 38%

Yeah, right-pity these poor private health insurance companies That's why they flew into a panic when there was talk of the public option and pumped big bucks into turning back the effort. I would be too if my big CEO bonuses were on the line.

Having said that, it's true that the insurance companies profits are modest compared to big pharma, healthcare information, home healthcare firms, medical labs, and generic drug makers.

We can get rid of  for-profit medicine, not to mention the costly paperwork, with a single-payer plan.

7 years 11 months ago
I think we should have state run pencil manufacturing.  Then we would have cheaper, better pencils:)  Vince, your too funny!
7 years 11 months ago
The problem is that politicians do not try to explain to people that Medicare, Medicaid and Social Security have to be cut otherwise they will all go away.  If the people learned the truth, I believe they would accept the cuts that are necessary for a sustainable future.  Unfortunately our president has chosen not to lead on this issue but to play political games.  Hopefully someone will step up to the plate (Paul Ryan?) and lead.  My kids deserve better than this political gamesmanship.
Vince Killoran
7 years 11 months ago
Yes, let's be frank with the American people: they need to know that it is solvant and one of our most important means for keeping seniors out of poverty-and that with some minor tax increases for the wealthy that it will be even stronger.

The Pew results are interesting and should not give comfort to those of any political persuasion. When you look at the list of what Americans support for spending-good & bad-it really hits home that we don't look further than the ends of our noses.
Vince Killoran
7 years 11 months ago
I was only referring to Social Security.  What's "unsustainable" there is that the taxation ends at $107K in income so the wealthy are not paying their share.

Of course, the government needs to stop raiding the Social Security funds; as for Medicare and Medicaid, I agree in a way: something needs to be done to reform the whole system, like the institution of a single-payer plan.

7 years 11 months ago
A couple things

We hear all the time that just taxing the rich a little more little solve our problems but there is evidence that such a policy acutally reduces taxes and there is plenty of evidence that lowering tax rates actually produces more revenue.  There is a point of maximum revenue for tax rates and we have no idea where it is.  At 0% it is zero and at 100% it is zero.  So what is the magic number inbetween.   Marginal tax rates affect behavior substantially.

Second, I heard recently that the social security problem could be eliminated if there were no super indexing of rates.  What I mean is that as people enter social security the new entrants get more money.  So if a typical person is receiving $16,000 a year, this will be indexed for inflation so that in a future time, they will receive say $20,000 a year.  But new people entering at this time in the future will receive $24,000 a year (hypothethical example.)  This has been going on since the Jimmy Carter administration when the law was changed and is one of the reasons the system is going broke.  Eliminating this super compensation would ease the tax burdens for several years for social security.
Jim McCrea
7 years 11 months ago
Scrap the defense budget.  Arm every adult in this country and live up to the Constitution's provision to obviate the need for a standing army by having a well-ordered militia.

I would, of course, get the heck out of Dodge ASAP and watch the rest of your go down in a sea of blood.


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